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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
How can female infanticide be stopped?

India is failing to prevent large-scale female infanticide and foeticide, according to a UN report. As a result, says the UN's World Population Fund, India has one of the highest imbalances in the world between males and females.

The Fund says that the low status of women in Indian society is mainly to blame, and criticises India for its lack of commitment to tackling gender inequality.

Other Asian countries, particularly China, have similar problems. Poverty, ignorance and culture combine to conspire against girls.

How can this problem be tackled? What should countries like India and China be doing? Can the world do any more than criticise from the sidelines? What is the price of doing nothing?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Why is that the rich and prosperous world sees all evil in countries like India? Why do those nations and their citizens choose to ignore the issues such as racism and the total collapse of social values in their own countries?
Indian, USA

Since the people who kill female babies are poor and ignorant and know no life beyond their villages, how does education come into the picture? When you live a dirt-poor existence, the first thing on your mind is survival and boy babies contribute more to the future economic picture. There is no solution except time. Comparing motives in India and China with the West is ludicrous. It's the magnitude of the problem, not the fact that it exists that is the point. That's an entirely different matter.
Suzanne, USA


The real problem in here is the appallingly low status of women.

Caroline, UK
Never mind all the political, social or economic arguments here. The real problem in India (as in every other part of the world, for that matter) is the appallingly low status of women. The abhorrent view that women are second class citizens (or even sub-human) is what needs to be tackled as a matter of utmost urgency. If women were seen as equally valued as men, and if it were enshrined both in culture and in law that they had the same rights to work and earn an income as men then I'd lay a reasonable bet that the problem would simply disappear.
Caroline, UK

Firstly, India needs a strictly enforced ban on the Dowry policy which serves no purpose but to feed the greed of parents who see their children in a dollar-green light. Secondly, the countries that have this problem should IMMEDIATELY stop the facility that allows parents to know the gender of babies before they are born. I live in a city with a large Asian population where female babies were routinely aborted. Both local hospitals have since stopped this facility. This has worked wonders.
Wayne Brannan, UK

I disagree that the problem is only of gender inequality. I think it is more related with education. The affected percentage of population need to be educated about the facts and consequences in the future, just like the Americans and British needs to be 'EDUCATED' regarding the racial inequality existing in western countries.
Prasad Kothare, INDIA


I feel the root of the problem lies in certain sections of the people and their mindset

Kamal, USA
Imposing sanctions is obviously is not the solution. It's very unfair to generalise since the whole country is not practising this. I feel the root of the problem lies in certain sections of the people and their mindset. They should be identified, educated and uplifted.
Kamal, USA

The solution - extremely high taxes for families with boys - the more boys, more taxes! Tax and food subsidies for families with daughters, the more daughters, the more subsidies
Sandra, USA

It will be nearly impossible to stop infanticide in India because it is such a male-dominated culture and because many families are simply too poor to afford raising five, six, seven or more daughters. The only thing that would really stop infanticide in places like India is a radical overhaul of the culture. The obvious alternative, abortion is simply another form of infanticide.
Jeff, USA


Enlightenment will only come through the spread of education and improved economic conditions

Arni Narain, UK
Girls in the Indian sub-continent are seen as a burden whereas boys are seen as an asset. Even those girls that are lucky to survive have a reduced status in the family with all the attention focussed on the male child. Enlightenment will only come through the spread of education and improved economic conditions, underpinned by government social and health welfare schemes.
Arni Narain, UK

The logical consequences of this going unchecked are that there will be two Indias. One, where well to do men can afford wives, will have children and normal lives. The other will exist in the ghettos, where kidnapped Bangladeshi or Nepali girls are sold as sex slaves and pass on AIDS to their customers as it was passed on to them. This exists today and will only get worse. AIDS will hit India and Pakistan like a typhoon.
Jim H, USA

Economic sanctions would only exacerbate the situation, hitting the poorest communities first and increasing their need for sons to boost their income. With a combination of education and government incentives for girls, the situation could slowly be reversed.
Louise, UK

Infanticide is murder and that is wrong. Isn't it interesting that in a world that is supposedly modern, - we have people being executed daily, we perform abortions, we refuse to give adequate treatment to ill people because they are poor or old. The fact is very clear. This is a world that is very unfair, very uncompassionate, and very stupid.
Dave Adams, USA

The people who carry out these heinous tasks are mainly from the lower class and cannot afford to buy the next meal. When they hear of a female child they realise the expenses involved, such as a massive dowry in the future. A son will not only bring a dowry but will also be an able hand and earn some money for the next meal. How's that for a thought? Any solutions?
Rahul Dhir, UK

Adoption?
T.J. Cassidy, USA

Why focus only on India and China? This problem of infanticide exists in all countries to a greater or lesser extent. This is another case of the rich West harassing the relatively poor East. Many consider aborting a foetus the same as infanticide, yet no one is condemning Europeans to change their behaviour.
Kashmir, Canada


Other problems along with this, like the caste system, religious intolerance, abject poverty and rampant corruption have eaten into the moral structure of the society

Ashok, USA
The female infanticide issue is just one of the many issues, which need immediate attention and should be treated more as a symptom than a disease. Other problems along with this, like the caste system, religious intolerance, abject poverty and rampant corruption have eaten into the moral structure of the society. More than anything, even governmental regulations or international interference, Indians need to dig deep into there souls and realise the hypocrites that they have become and how 'stuckup', they are in the past (maybe a few hundred years) as far as social mores are concerned.
Ashok, USA

Birth control methods, like condoms and "the pill" should be distributed at governmental expense throughout the Far East. This would vastly reduce the number of cases in which the mother is forced to kill her child.
Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK in US

Why not just let the kids live? They are people, and just because they are born female, why kill them? Why not give them an equal status with boys? They claim to cherish freedom, but they do not give it to others. As someone once said "those who deny freedom to others do not deserve it themselves."
Dave C., United States


The Indian government to its credit has attempted to improve the lot of girls by providing them with free education, meals during school hours, vaccination

Ken Bhandary, USA
Karim Chowdhury and others who call for sanctions against India on this issue are overlooking an important point. It is not the government that is encouraging or assisting in this infanticide or foeticide. In fact, the Indian government to its credit has attempted to improve the lot of girls by providing them with free education, meals during school hours, vaccination, etc. Some states like Maharashtra have actually banned tests determining the gender of the baby. In such a vast land, it is a Herculean effort. Sanctions will only hinder the government in its fight and will hurt the ordinary citizens.
Ken Bhandary, USA

This is only one of the problems India has. We all talk about these when we read it in the newspaper or watch it on the evening news. India needs educated people to run the country, who will allow others to be educated. Only the educated leaders can understand the importance of education. In order to fix the problem we must find the root and the root of India's problem is their uneducated political leaders.
Hindustani, Canada

Does the Western world have a voice in this. We promote "freedom of choice" of a woman to decide to discontinue a pregnancy as her right. In that case how can we blame the Indian woman for practising her "freedom of choice" (ie: discontinuing a pregnancy, which is her right)?
Lakshaman, Canada


There is a strong belief that having a female child is expensive when it come to marriage and dowry.

MAK, USA/India
The problem cited at India - particularly at the districts mentioned are extreme poverty and lack of education. Further, there is a strong belief that having a female child is expensive when it come to marriage and dowry. However, this situation is changing a lot. The figures we have here are definitely better than what was happening a few years ago. My suggestion is to create more jobs for these people in these areas, and force education on them. Education is not only for the children but also for the elderly - Those who decide to the barbarous act of infanticide.
MAK, USA/India

The bias against daughters arises largely because of economic reasons. Sons are viewed as "social security" in areas where resources are scarce, avenues for savings limited, and public support for the elderly non-existent. Daughters, on the other hand, require large dowry payments at the time of marriage. The solution? First, educate the young. Second, provide social security for the elderly. Young folks with higher self esteem and greater potential on the job market will not have to resort to paying or receiving dowry. And old folks will stop viewing sons as old age insurance.
Smita, USA/India

Female infanticide is one of the causes of the deep routed problems in the society. It should be get rid off by the very people of the country. A determined Government and Media will also help in this.
Srikiran Dravida, USA


We have imposed our values and morality on other cultures for too long.

Phil Saum, UK
This is a problem for India to solve, not the west. We have imposed our values and morality on other cultures for too long. Why is it so difficult for some people to accept that they have no business interfering in the affairs of another country. Its not even like we have a valid human rights statute in the UK!
Phil Saum, UK

Yet again, Darwinism raises its head. If only middle class and wealthy families can financially tolerate the birth of a daughter, then only middle class and wealthy families will survive to the next generation. Perhaps this is an Indian solution to mass poverty?
Bob, UK

What a ridiculous bit of UN hypocrisy. This is just the UN's much extolled "women's right to choose" in action. Why does the UN seek to limit this "right" in India yet extend it elsewhere? Obviously Indian women are choosing to give their little daughter's to Kali. I am surprised that the UN is not sending them money and equipment to make foeticide/abortion/infanticide more accessible.
Michael Shea, USA

Female infanticide is a direct result of the dowry system that is followed in India. Although it has be made unlawful it is practised by a majority of the population which also included the stewards of law. Female infanticide can be tackled only through education of the masses and the strict enforcement of law which is a dream which may never become a reality in India unless everyone concerned with it really want it. The world is helpless and can only criticise and watch and pray that the situation will change.
Ribu Jacob, India


If the Western countries focus on correcting the discrimination against women, then female infanticide will naturally disappear

Katya, USA
Female infanticide is a side effect of low social status of women in India. Indian parents know that their sons can achieve what their daughters never will. If the Western countries focus on correcting the discrimination against women, then female infanticide will naturally disappear. Otherwise, we follow in the footsteps of many American politicians who side with pro-life as well as anti-welfare forces without seeing the contradiction.
Katya, USA

I'm sorry, I was under the impression that this was about killing female children because of their sex, not a platform for anti-abortionists (all men, as usual). The issue is that children are dying, some unborn yes, but many are infants. Does Pete in England seriously think this is a great way to reduce the world's population?
Kathy, UK

This is to Janet from UK. Slapping sanctions is not the solution specifically for social problems. Under a sanctions regime the country will be isolated and whatever little trickle of information we have will be lost for ever. And to top it all barbarians will get to rule the roost. And as far as sexual bias at the time of birth is concerned its a world wide phenomenon. Only in the west reason seems to prevail more often than none.
Santoshi Reddy, USA/India

Why criticise Mohansingh? Because people are killing their daughters, that's why! Or perhaps you think it's "imperialist" to condemn this "cultural choice"? I bet there are a lot of Indians who don't approve of it though. The answer? That's for India to decide.
Alex Chiang, Taiwan-Australia

This has nothing to do with poverty or culture...just the mindset that matters.
Manesh G, India


Dowry system and social conditioning from a very early age have pushed the girl child into the dark

Nazreenmayan, India
The question of gender discrimination is still very alive in India. Dowry system and social conditioning from a very early age have pushed the girl child into the dark. Primary education has to be strengthened
Nazreenmayan, India

As a Catholic, I believe that all "abortion" is infanticide (albeit under another guise).
Brian Kelly, USA

In country like India, a boy could help the family to earn extra income through child labour. Female (kids and adults) do not work. Given the poverty, families are desperate to get more income earning capacity, of which a baby boy could provide. A baby girl would however, is a liability under this environment. The scenario makes infanticide a sensible practice - regardless how horrible it may sound in the western world. Imagine yourself to be in that scenario - have a baby girl, need to feed them until adult, low possibility of earning income, providing education would be a waste since there wouldn't be any opportunity in the future.
Nizam, Malaysia

The bottom-line is culture. This is something that cannot be changed. However, the government can mitigate this mindset by " marketing " the status of women in government and business through film and print media. Over time the people will accept the fact that females are just as competent as males and may well contribute more financially to the family. The government must take the first step.
Harry Chia, Singapore


Female infanticide is due to parents wishing their children to survive and - most important - provide for them when they are old

Andrej, Russia
The reasons are economical: cultural and educational problems root in economic ones. Males are most likely to succeed, since they are designated to bring up their bread; females are to be taken under their protection through marriage, so they have to be beautiful or have rich parents (better if both). It's not a matter of respect toward women (which are respected in Hindu culture). Thus, female infanticide is due to parents wishing their children to survive and--most important--provide for them when they are old.
Andrej, Russia

The people making a big issue out of this are not concerned about the victims of this practice. The main objective of such articles made by the western media is racially aimed at giving the impression than Chinese and Indian culture ill-treats women
Sam, Australia

The major problem in India is patriarchy. Women themselves prefer to submit themselves to their husbands, whom they consider God. If women pressurise and refuse to give in to their commands, a lot could be solved. Also social workers should help them to make them aware of what's going around the world.
Zareen, India


What are all of these guys going to do when they run out of women?

lhutton, USA
What are all of these guys going to do when they run out of women? Have you ever read Watership Down? The guys go raiding for females. The last laugh is a bunch of guys sitting around and not a single woman to give them a child.
lhutton, USA

Oh PUH-LEEASE! Why does everyone blame only the Indian and Chinese culture?? What about honour killings which are so widespread in mostly Arab countries? Honour killings in the name of Islam are no better than infanticide in the name of culture. In either case, education seems to be the best option.
Sue, Germany

The problem in these countries is that illiteracy feeds poverty and in Indian and Chinese cultures, baby girls grow up to be expensive daughters. The practice of dowry in India and the one child policy in China, where boys are favoured perpetuates this practice. The only way this is going to change is by educating the illiterate poor in both countries, enforcing the abolishment of dowry practice in India and a review of the one child policy in China.
Jay, UK

How would people respond to this issue if male children were the ones targeted for infanticide? With too many issues involving women and girls, heinous acts are placed under the "cultural differences" umbrella. If these same acts were targeted at men and boys, they would be termed "human rights violations."
Kelly, Texas


The answer is obvious, education is everything.

Abs, UK
Look more closely at the situation. Where do you think the majority of female infanticide takes place? The educated families in India or the poor illiterate families who just have enough to feed themselves? The answer is obvious, education is everything.
Abs, UK

Maybe one day the female child will become so rare as to be more precious than the male.
Jacqueline S, UK

Can anything be done as long as situations like this (or dowry murders, female circumcision, the Taleban's ban on women workers, women's right to vote - or lack of it, etc.) are time and time again excused as being due to "cultural differences"?
Nina, UK


Indians are centred on their children. Whatever they make are for the well being of their children.

Kadavul, US/India
Indians are centred on their children. Whatever they make are for the well being of their children. If they know that what they have and what they can make is not going to help their daughter for her well being, they think. Though women are treated with respect in India, the disparity at the time of marriage is the biggest cause for this evil. All old traditions during marriage are now replaced by "woman's family has to give wealth" irrespective of religion. Unless this is addressed, it is better to have less number of woman, which would have natural effect to treat the problem.
Kadavul, US/India

What is the point of this discussion? This is a cultural issue for India and China - there is little we can do about it.
Andrew, England

When the women of India realise just how bad their situation is, with respect to many of the freedoms their western counterparts enjoy, then they will push for more power to decide their own lives. This can only come about by education and communication and then letting them decide. Information is the most potent equaliser.
Dr Jon B, Sweden


We the people of the west have no right in pointing out fingers.

John K, Germany
It is well known fact that in countries like India and China mostly economically weaker sections of society show a preference for male offspring's. In absence of options like female infanticide and female foeticide, people may try to reproduce till they have a male child. This adds to another problem of population explosion, which is much more severe.
Foeticide is an option exercised in many countries to prevent the birth of unwanted offspring for reasons varying from teenage pregnancies, extra-marital affairs, genetically weak parents. This foeticide might be sometimes even carried out on behalf of government. This act too is inhuman, arising due to ignorance and weakness of culture. Thus, we the people of the west have no right in pointing out fingers to others when we ourselves are indulging in such activities.
John K, Germany

Without drastically altering the national psyche of the Near- and Far-Eastern nations where this is prevalent there is little hope that there will be a reversal in this trend. As populations increase and the governments enact measures to attempt to control said population; there will always be a higher rate of infanticide in girls where the culture places an over-emphasis on paternal lineage. Perhaps a system of orphanages that will speed international adoptions would be a step in the right direction. If people who don't want female children could give them up for adoption without excessive punitive action, they might be less likely to resort to infanticide.
Paul A. Lux, USA


By allowing this treatment to occur we are surely saying that it is morally correct to allow a huge gender divide to develop,

C Hawkins, England
It is not a new idea that in many parts of the developing world women are treated as second class citizens. Western countries have thus far ignored this problem and have blamed the situation. By allowing this treatment to occur we are surely saying that it is morally correct to allow a huge gender divide to develop, which it obviously is not.
C Hawkins, England

It seems that no measures can be proposed, because it's very difficult to govern social conscience without changes in objective conditions of life in the country. But one of possible ways to save the very girl could be adoption of the concrete child by foreign families.
Elena Morozova, Russia

Indian people in India will just have to snap out of it. I don't like the implication that 'the world', which always means the pockets of Europeans and Americans, is obliged to bail out everyone else's problems all the time.
Jack, UK

Anyone who goes out at the weekends can see what happens when males outnumber females. They become frustrated and violent. India is storing up a lot of misery and trouble for their young men by undervaluing women, essentially ruining society for everyone. They need to experience what we did after the industrial revolution, increasingly equal opportunities.
Dan Peters, UK


The person is what matters, not their colour, sex or any other shared characteristic.

Judith, UK
Western society beat sexism by focussing on the individual and not on groups. The person is what matters, not their colour, sex or any other shared characteristic. Its 'politically correct' to raise non-western cultures above our own, but I certainly don't look up to India. They will just have to grow up out of that mindset or women and men will carry on suffering there.
Judith, UK

The west is practising abortion and it is legalised. Legalised abortion is murder and foeticide. Every year more than 30 million abortions are carried out. Why pick on India only? You should condemn the whole world for this barbarous act.
John Kumaram, UK

This is a deep-seated cultural matter with many difficulties. Hopefully the globalisation of communications and education will improve things for future generations. Murder is murder and no one is above the law but how do you find the recourses to police the problem let alone the evidence to mount prosecutions. When it comes to abortion we cannot take the moral high ground because we permit this ourselves. Women's rights are still in their infancy even in the West.
John, UK

Education, Education, Education...
Harish, India

We are hardly an endangered species, are we? Measures like this that slow down the population increase can hardly be a bad thing. Or is this a case of sexual equality in the extreme?
Pete, England


Why criticise only the freedom of cultural choice to have sons rather than daughters?

Mohansingh, India
Contraception is either spermicide or ovicide but is advocated and promoted in the name of family planning, population control, safe sex, freedom of the woman to control her own body, the human freedom to indulge in the pleasurable, leisure activity of sex etc. Then, why criticise only the freedom of cultural choice to have sons rather than daughters?
Mohansingh, India

I don't think it can be stopped. In countries with such widespread poverty and ignorance, much of it in rural, isolated communities, the 'normal' rules cannot be made to apply. All you can hope for is that those countries embark on a programme of education, education and education.
Martin, UK

Many men want sons. One day it will dawn on such men that they cannot have sons without women. Perhaps when they are scarce, the value of women will rise - as the populations which practice female infanticide collapse and wars over cross-border female abduction raids increase.
Clive P Mitchell, UK

Foeticide - is that abortion? The first thing we could do is help young single parents more in this country, rather than encourage them to 'get rid of' their baby. Then we could perhaps give advice to other countries.
Ricahrd L., UK

This tragedy is largely the result of poverty and ignorance, wrapped in a dominating paternalistic religious culture. It is evil ... but it is up to the political leaders in the countries involved to make the societal changes necessary. I do not presume to understand all the issues, beyond the light of common decency, but it bothers me that these kind of practices are so widespread in countries with nuclear weapons... it says a lot about their thinking.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK


The way to tackle this issue is to tackle the Indian people and government by sanctions, not by visits from Clinton and other Western officials.

Karim Chowdhury, England, UK
The UN's World Population Fund report underlines the true extent of how far India has progressed as a democracy and a civilised nation in this age. If other nations can have sanctions against them for human rights abuse then the way to tackle this issue is to tackle the Indian people and government by sanctions, not by visits from Clinton and other Western officials.
Karim Chowdhury, England, UK

It is unfortunate that this is the case of India. It never used to be like this with it's regards to women. Although many people regard Islam as an anti-female religion, which it is certainly not, when India was part of Islam, the status of women in India was raised, and the killing of female babies was prohibited. Women are an integral part of our society and without women men would not exist. There should be a re-education of the honour and respect that women should have within Indian culture.
James Richardson, UK

Female infanticide is the result of a barbaric patriarchal society where females are seen as having little or no importance. Until biting, international sanctions are bought against nations who allow this type of ideology to flourish, very little will change.
Janet, UK

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11 Jul 00 | South Asia
India rapped over birth bias
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